What if the new government of Tunisia forbids women to divorce?
There is a saying that goes something like this: “You know the devil you have, you don’t know the one you are going to get.” One has to wonder if Tunisians in general and Tunisian women in particular are aware of these words of wisdom? Now that they have ousted their “dictator” Ben Ali it begs the question what is the new leader of Tunisia going to be like. According to a report I just read on NPR, under Ben Ali, women in Tunisia enjoyed near equality with men, a fact unprecedented in the rest of the Arab world. Not only didn’t they have to “wear a veil” or “not talk to men in public,” Tunisian women could also freely divorce their husbands if they saw fit. NPR:
Tunisian women have the same rights to divorce as men, and polygamy is illegal. Women here have had access to birth control since 1962 and have had access to abortion since 1965 — eight years before Roe v. Wade gave American women the same right.
Many Tunisian women now say they are concerned about the potential return of Islamist parties banned under Ben Ali. But Asma Belkassem, a 31-year-old lawyer, says she’s not scared.
“What is sure is that we women have rights in Tunisia,” she says. “And no one can take them away now. Not the Islamists or anybody else.”
Tunisian women credit a 1956 civil rights code for their many freedoms and equality, as well as an excellent education system that is open to all.
They also thank former President Habib Bourguiba, their founding father who led the independence struggle from France and wanted women to play a full role in Tunisian society. No one gives an ounce of credit to Ben Ali. http://www.npr.org/2011/01/27/133248219/in-tunisia-women-play-equal-role-in-revolution
Now with the revolution in Tunisia, the government, allies of the US is in flux and there is no telling who will ultimately take power. What if it is an Islamic fundamentalist or Taliban/AlQaeda type? It may not happen next year, but over time, it could happen. And women in Tunisia could find that history repeats himself and they are forced to wear the veil again, or risk getting their heads stoned off by Islamic extremists who expect women to “know their place.” It will be good for the divorce rate, to be sure. But very disruptive to the human rights that Tunisian women have come to expect in their country.
And I say it with all due respect to all who cater to these religious ideologies practiced in Tunisia and the rest of the Middle East. It is not a question of judgment; just an observation. That sometimes in life, you know the devil you have but then you trade him in, and what you have on your hands, is Satan himself. Tunisian women, beware!